A half century has elapsed since the appointment of an official body, the Nature Conservancy, in 1949, and the beginnings of what might be described as the modern nature conservation movement in the UK. Whilst ecologists perceived the 'heritage of wild nature' to be largely the outcome of past land use, and that the nature reserves would have to be managed consciously if their wildlife interest were to be sustained, there was only the most rudimentary understanding of how this might be achieved. Drawing for the most part on projects affecting wetlands, the paper illustrates the early steps taken to bring greater scientific rigour to reserve management. Whilst the potential for habitat restoration was recognized, there was little opportunity for its practice in the intensively-farmed countryside until grant aid was made available for such purpose from the agricultural budget in the 1980s. Where nature conservation had begun to subsume nature preservation, some fifty years ago, notions of 'creative conservation' have similarly encouraged reassessment of the purpose and practice of wildlife-resource management. This time however the challenge is being met in both the wider countryside and the built environment.